Learning to trust each other
One of the hardest things about trusting someone is learning to have confidence in your own judgment. Trust is about much more than finding signs that your partner has been unfaithful. It’s about believing that they have your best interests at heart.
Every person is born with the propensity to trust others but through life experiences, you may have become less trusting as a form of self-protection. Falling in love and getting married can be invigorating and scary all at once. An inability to trust a new partner may take several forms, from feeling they’re dishonest or secretive, to doubting they’re going to keep their promises or be dependable.
Take a moment to consider this: Your partner is not solely responsible for creating mistrustful feelings. In most cases, you must take equal responsibility for creating an atmosphere of safety and security in your relationship. In order to begin the process of overcoming mistrust, ask yourself:
- What is the story I’m telling myself?
- Does my fear of loss and abandonment cloud my perspective and cause me to overreact to my partner’s actions?
- Is my mistrust coming from something that is actually happening in the present, or is it related to my past?
- Do I feel comfortable asking for what I need and allowing myself to be vulnerable?
- Do I bring my best self to my interactions with my partner?
- Do I possess self-love and allow myself to be loved and respected?
Many relationships are sabotaged by self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe your partner will hurt you, you can unconsciously encourage hurts to emerge in your relationship. But day by day, if you learn to operate from a viewpoint that your partner loves you and wants the best for you, you can enjoy trust in your marriage.
Here are seven ways to proactively build trust in your relationship.
Acknowledge your feelings and practice being vulnerable in small steps Build confidence in being more open with your partner. Discussing minor issues (schedules or meals) is a great place to start before tackling bigger matters like disciplining kids or finances.
Be honest and communicate about key issues in your relationship
Be sure to be forthcoming about finances, your past, and concerns with a family member, co-workers, or children. Don’t sweep important issues under the rug because this can lead to resentment.
Challenge mistrustful thoughts
Ask yourself: is my lack of trust due to my partner’s actions, my own insecurities, or both? Be aware of unresolved issues from your past relationships that may be triggering mistrust in the present.
Trust your intuition and instincts
Have confidence in your own perceptions and pay attention to red flags. Be vulnerable and ask for reassurance if you feel mistrustful.
Assume your partner has good intentions
If he or she lets you down, it may just be a failure in competence–sometimes people simply make a mistake.
Listen to your partner’s side of the story
Believe that there are honest people in the world. Unless you have a strong reason to mistrust him or her, have faith in your partner.
Practice having a recovery conversation after an argument
Take a short break if you feel overwhelmed or flooded and set a time to process what happened. This will give you both time to calm down and collect your thoughts so you can have a more meaningful dialogue with your partner.
According to Dan Wile, author of After the Fight, after a disagreement your focus needs to be on listening to your partner’s perspective, collaborating, building intimacy, and restoring safety and good will.
In The Science of Trust, John Gottman explains that practicing emotional attunement while relaxing together can help you stay connected in spite of your differences. This means turning toward one another by showing empathy, responding appropriately to bids for connection, and not being defensive.
Asking your partner open-ended questions is also a great way to increase emotional closeness and build trust. If you ask questions that require a yes or no answer, you’re closing the door to intimate dialogue. In other words, take your time and make love to your partner with words.
For a relationship to succeed in the long run, you must be able to trust each other. Building trust with a partner is really about the small moments of connection that allow you to feel safe and to truly believe that your partner will show up for you. It’s the bedrock of a happy, long term partnership.
How to rebuild trust when it’s been broken
In their new book Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, John and Julie Gottman suggest that if you break any agreements about trust with your partner, there are steps to fix what’s been broken. These steps include setting a time to talk, naming the feelings you experienced due to the breach of trust without blame or criticism, listening to your partner without judgment, and each partner describing their perspective and discussing any feelings that were triggered by the incident.
The final three steps essential for rebuilding trust, according to the Gottmans in Eight Dates, are both partners assessing how they contributed to the incident and holding themselves accountable, each person apologizing and accepting an apology, and developing a plan to prevent further breaches of trust from occurring.
An important part of the work in improving trust is focused on having conversations between each other that help to rebuild trust and affirm the commitment to one another over time. You have the power to break free from the hold that mistrust has on your relationship and create the kind of intimacy you deserve.